President Reagan has scheduled a May 11 White House luncheon with a group of Soviet dissidents now living in the United States--including Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel prizewinning author who was refused a White House invitation when Gerald R. Ford was president.
Senior administration officials said that no formal invitations had yet been sent, but that the engagement was tentatively on the president's schedule.
According to informed sources, some in Congress wanted Reagan to meet with Solzhenitsyn alone. The writer became a symbol in Reagan's unsuccessful 1976 campaign for president after Ford, on advice from his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, avoided a personal meeting with Solzhenitsyn when he first took up residence in this country in 1975.
Ford and Kissinger apparently sought to avoid provoking leaders of the Soviet Union, who consider Solzhenitsyn a bitter enemy because of his books denouncing the Soviet period of Russian history and revealing in detail Joseph Stalin's system of prison camps, which Solzhenitsyn dubbed "the Gulag Archipelago." Gulag is a Russian acronym for the government prison administration.
In 1975 and 1976 Reagan and other conservatives attacked Ford and Kissinger for avoiding Solzhenitsyn. But some officials in the Reagan administration advised the White House not to hold a private meeting with Solzhenitsyn now, since he has become a symbol of an extreme Russian nationalist position that many other Soviet human rights activists abhor.
The White House has decided to invite conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and several other former Soviet dissidents who fought for human rights, sources said.